Recent decades have seen a growth at master’s level of such subjects as publishing, creative writing, and journalism. Many of these courses provide some coverage of editing; few, however, give it major emphasis – let alone make it the main focus.
There is, I suggest, a case for providing courses dedicated to editing. Editing itself is, after all, an activity with a long pedigree within academia, at least in the form of scholarly textual editing and journal editing. (A number of universities already offer training in scholarly editing.) And editing is a complex, intellectually rich, activity, worthy of genuine study.
Moreover, courses on editing would fit, more happily than most, universities’ growing concern to demonstrate that their courses promote employability. Not only do many people work as designated editors: editing is also a valuable skill to possess in more general roles that involve communication or the handling of information.
My own interest and experience lies in editing in the publishing industry, where editing takes many forms – for example, commissioning, volume or journal editing, development editing, and copy-editing. I’ve never worked as a magazine, newspaper, or website editor – but know enough about those activities to discern some reasonably close kinship.*
The skills that such various forms of editing have in common are amongst those often identified as most desirable in the age of digital information. They include abstracting, collating, criticising, curating, digesting, evaluating, indexing, and remixing. The nature of such skills, and their contribution across diverse forms of editing, remains I think under-researched.
A particular attraction for any university that wanted to establish a course is the existence of a number of professional bodies. Examples include the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. I’d urge any such university to seek to work in genuine partnership with professional organisations such as these: there would surely be mutual advantage to be gained from exploring such areas as accreditation and credits towards professional qualifications.
- Scott Norton, Developmental editing (U. of Chicago Press);
- Janet Mackenzie, The Editor’s companion (Cambridge U. Press);
- Yehuda Baruch et al., Opening the black box of editorship (Palgrave).
In addition, many editors provide a regular supply of high quality content online via social media. They include Averill Buchanan (@AverillB), Louise Harnby (@LouiseHarnby), Katie Van Heest (@TweedEditing), Kristine Hunt (@CCCopyEditor), Agata Mrva-Montoya (@agatamontoya), and Katharine O’Moore-Klopf (@KOKEdit). There’s certainly no shortage of resources.
So I hope this idea receives serious consideration. And, yes, I’m ready to talk!
*About radio, television, and film editing, I couldn’t say.